Archive for the ‘NeuroScience’ Category

Introducing – the spiritual area of the brain

Humans have an area in the brain which is common to religious experiences, see Are humans hard-wired for faith?. This isn’t new, I’ve encountered it several years now. At first, it was an astonishing discovery, but thinking about it in retrospect, it’s kind of obvious for any person whose not an extreme spiritualist.

We know any thinking process has some neurological basis to it. We can’t see, hear, do math, read, recognize our grandma or feel pain without the neuronal activity. We can’t be totally sure as to what causes what, but its quite commonly agreed that it is the neuronal activity that somehow causes our perception of the sensations (specific stimulation of neurons in the brain by electrodes or chemicals can cause perceptions). Hence, it is quite obvious that something as common as religion, which affects over 90% of the world population, would also have some neuronal basis. The interesting part is that the activity is common to all religions – A Buddhist meditating has the same neuronal activity as a Christian praying. This somehow brings us all closer a notch, its a shame this also causes humans to become zealots. I think this notion makes this zealotry ludicrous – “My favorite stimuli for creating neuronal activity in the right frontal lobe is correct and your is false, therefore you must die!”. Now doesn’t that make sense? Why didn’t you just say so?

Another thing that’s interesting is that the activity (and thus spiritual revelations) can be reproduced by simple measures: Meditation, Prayer, Trance music and LSD. Apart from LSD which causes chemical reactions which could take some work to figure out, this demystifies spirituality to a point of absurd. There is nothing special about the AHUM syllable used in meditation, nor the rocking of Jewish prayer. Any repetitive motion will eventually induce spiritual activity in the brain, be it embedded in trance music created a year ago, or a religious ceremony created 2000 years ago. The importance of “ceremonies”* in the definition of religion become trivial, and a “create your own cult” handbook is already half written.

* ceremonies in the larger definition, meaning any action or thought required to be repeated in any time interval, usually daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly.

Brain Map

The BBC has a nice applet for exploring the Brain Map.

Enjoy 🙂

Growing a Brain in Switzerland

Now that the human genome is complete, I guess the natural next step would be to attempt to simulate the human brain:

Print – Neurotechnology: Growing a Brain in Switzerland – International – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News

Reading Shakespeare has dramatic effect on human brain

I came across this interesting post:
Reading Shakespeare has dramatic effect on human brain | Science Blog

Maybe I should replace my new book recommendation page with Shakespeare’s works?

Anyway, the type of word-play suggested in this post has been a very common custom for me over the years (I have no idea where I picked it up), and has in fact annoyed several people at some points of time. Saying that I will winrar them things, or that I will sempai tomorrow, they would look at me angrily. Now I understand why – it probably just actually made them accidentally think for a second…

Savants and Synthesia

I’ve hemi-neglected this blog for too long, but now that exams are over, maybe I’ll have more time to post.

Sunil wrote A very nice post about Savants and Synthesia. We tend to see perception as something that is unisensual, meaning we percieve sensory stimuli via one sense at a time. A picture is only percieved by our vision, sounds are only percieved by our hearing, etc. But for some people, this is not so.

Interestingly enough, I find this topic relevant to the idea I have for a research thesis, but only in the slightest form. Since I’ve not yet refined it, and due to academic competition, I won’t be able to explain this further right now – maybe in a month or two.

Mirror neurons and Autism

It has been lately shown that mirror neurons deficiency is related to autism. This is an interesting development.

Mirror neurons are traditionally accepted as responsible for mirroring actions, i.e.: If you see a person eat with a spoon, you will immediately know how to eat with a spoon yourself (monkey see monkey do). It does make sense that there is also a relation to feeling mirroring, perhaps via the motor stream – see a sad face, make a sad face yourself, feel sad, understand that the other person is sad. At some point the action step can perhaps no longer be required – action perceiving and feeling can be wired with no need for actual action, recall Pavlov’s dog.

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Intro to the brain – a video lecture series

A nice introduction to the workings of the brain

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